General Meeting Minutes: Nov. 19, 2016

10 a.m.: Erika welcomed the group and discussed the facilitation roles she and Jeremy will be taking. She thanked the long term members of DSA as well as new members and stated the goal for this meeting is to create a plan of action. She noted that an agenda has been emailed around and distributes some hard copies of the agenda. She started the meeting with an invitation for all present to introduce themselves stating their names, hopes for what they would get from this meeting and skills that they have to offer, and whether they are DSA members.

Introductions

Lexi is from San Francisco, is hoping to see a DSA chapter in San Francisco started, and is a DSA member.

Artem lives in Fremont and is hoping for concrete plans to come out of this meeting. He is a computer science and political science double major in college and offers skills in those areas.

Chase lives in Oakland and is not a DSA member yet. He is interested in direct action and has skills in journalism.

James is a member of DSA and hopes that this meeting can continue the momentum of last week's meeting. His skills include tweeting. He is also a CPA and can be a resource in figuring out 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 questions.

Jack lives in San Francisco and is part of the organizing committee to develop a San Francisco chapter. He is a programmer and his abilities include talking website and tech safety.

Emily is a non-member and is hoping to find out how to contribute. Her skills include project management and interfacing with angry people.

Andy is a non-member, is interested in mobilizing friends, and sees his skills as having available time and lots of drive.

Shereen is a long-time member, and she is inspired by the presence of new people and feeling enthusiastic. She has skills in journalism, having edited a magazine, and can offer computer layout skills towards the development of a newsletter, which she hopes can be developed.

Norma M. works with Therapists for Single Payer. She is a member, and she is looking for direction in this meeting.

Bill K. is a DSA member, union organizer, and public school teacher. He is hoping for this meeting to provide concrete next steps.

Michael N. is a lifetime founding member of DSA and is a teacher. He has labor movement and worker organizing skills.

Christine has felt depressed since the election and does not see herself as having skills.

Eileen J. is a writer for Jacobin, In these Times, and other publications and teaches as UC Berkeley.

Chris B. hopes to find out how to help and has a large amounts of time.

Shelly C. has experience in librarianship but is not interested in being a librarian again. She has worked in Richmond in visual marketing.

Ami teaches public speaking. She is a connector and hopes to develop an idea of how to put out there what DSA is about. She is a new DSA member.

Ben F. is the secretary for this meeting. He is a clinical psychologist who hopes to find concrete things to do to support left struggles. He has skills in note-taking.

Danila is a psychologist. She is hoping to figure out how to be more active. This is her first meeting

Jake says that this is also his first meeting. He teaches elementary school, DJs, and has experience coordinating and organizing DJ events. He is hoping to get more information from this meeting.

Nico is a new DSA member. He is hoping to get an action plan.

Dan says that this is his first DSA meeting. He has some experience with union organizing and with IT.

Mary Virginia is an organizer who studies right-wing social movements and wants to work on moving things left in concrete ways.

Coleman works with Berkeley High students and has experience mobilizing young men. He hopes to listen and maybe become a member. He also has an interest in gathering contemporary protest music.

Karl has been a co-leader of DSA for the last 10 years. He is also a clinical psychologist. He hopes to have a role in supporting the group in maintaining coherence by linking the past to the present and the present to the future.

Zenta is an artist (photographer) who is hoping to figure out a way to use her artistic voice. She is also an administrator at CCA and is plugged in to the student community there.

Ari hopes to get a concrete plan for building locally. He can cook just about anything and has experience with food-based fundraising. He also has organizing experience and is a DSA member.

Susan has been a co-facilitator with Karl and is excited to see everybody. She is having feelings of sorrow about the election and elation at the group gathered here and its energy.

Jeremy lives in North Oakland and has experience organizing with the Sierra Club. He wants to let people know that all people can learn the important things: that everyone can be an organizer and that everyone can learn the interpersonal skills needed for that work. He is a DSA member.

Shannon has been a member since August. She is hoping to learn something at this meeting about how to move forward. She has experience writing and editing and studied politics and political philosophy.

Mark P. is a member. He has taught community organizing and is a psychologist and a writer.

Nestor is an educator. He has a history organizing with Solidarity East Bay and other groups working on issues related to Latin America. He has worked on organizing Jacobin reading groups.

Linda is a semi-retired Spanish teacher.

Mr. Mendez (missed his first name) would rather be in Chile.

Asali has media skills and is here to get a feel for the vibe of a DSA meeting.

Anisha says this is her first meeting. She has marketing and coding skills.

Sam is an economics researcher. He is a DSA member and is hoping to find something concrete to do.

Avery has brought the coffee and asks that people please drink it. She is a DSA member and would do any work that needs doing. She is good with a microphone, is working currently on a podcast, and is good at interviewing.

Overview of DSA

At about 10:30 a.m., the meeting shifted to an overview of DSA by Susan and Karl who discussed the national and local history.

Susan discussed her personal history of being radicalized during the anti–Vietnam War movement, being involved in SDS and University of Michigan in 1965 and then going for a while to South America. When she returned to the US, she was part of "40 socialists in search of a party" and then NAM, the New America Movement. She became involved with DSA early and discussed the history of the merger with DSOC and the role Michael Harrington played at that time. She came back to DSA in early 2005 after some work in the labor movement with a sense that she needed a socialist home. Susan informed the group of the Resistance Rising document for organizing and stated that it might be a good reference for those looking for more information. Susan went on discuss some of the contradictions in the DSA.

The DSA has a large paid membership, about 10,000 paper members who are not necessarily activists.

The DSA also has an activist core.

The DSA is a national organization with locals, also sometimes called chapters or branches.

There are also related groups, the committees of correspondence for socialism and democracy.

YDS, the Young Democratic Socialists, has kept DSA membership growing, and there are also questions about YDS as a separate group.

DSA is a multi-tendency group. Any progressive position is welcome.

There is an idea that the Democratic Party needs to have a left wing, and there are DSA members working to impact that. While some DSA members are not in the Democratic Party, others might be involved in the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club locally. The DSA can be said to have an inside/outside strategy when it comes to organizing in relationship to the Democratic Party.

There is also a Left Caucus focused on "fighting the next war," recognizing that militarism is likely in the coming administration there is the need to be prepared for an anti-war mobilization.

Jacobin readers might be interested in the work the Left Caucus is doing.

There are worries within the DSA about the history of the left attacking the center and thus enabling a stronger fascist right wing.

There is a national Political Committee that is elected at the national conference every two years.

The number of DSA chapters in California allows DSA's work to be statewide.

Single-payer is an example of a statewide mobilization. Norma has been the chairperson of the single-payer efforts and through this work there has been the chance to talk to people state-wide.

Susan closed her remarks by stating that one thing she centers in her work is the idea that capitalism sucks and that this needs to be part of the message of our work. She noted her own belief in a mixed economy and her sense of money as an out-of-control problem.

History of DSA

Karl introduced the idea of a bimodal population and then discussed some more of the history of DSA. Per Karl, when Harrington brought people into the DSA, it was largely about his charismatic leadership. This is the largest jump in membership since that time, but Maria Svarts' approach is different from Harrington's. Svart's history is in a union-building and organizing model, and the current efforts have been less focused on charismatic figures  more bottom-up and not top-down.

Brainstorming

At about 10:40 a.m., Erika and Jeremy moved the group into the brainstorming part of the agenda.

Ari and Jeremy discussed a conversation they had with friends about "what is organizing" in order to frame goals of the brainstorming session. Ari defined organizing as "people-building and exercising the power of numbers." He discussed organizing as identifying an issue in the world and a strategy for getting change and attention to the issue. The process of coming together and building power together is the crux of the work, even if a given issue is not won.

Jeremy thanked Ari and the group and discussed the next part of the brainstorming process. The newness of this group working together was acknowledged, and he discussed the goals of developing focus and shared context, the narrowing of focus on to prioritized items, and the developing of leadership. The post-it strategy was explained and people were also encouraged to hold on to ideas if they don't get expressed due to the time limitations of the brainstorming session. Jeremy also noted that "if you are going to recommend something, be 90 percent sure that you want to do it," be prepared to coordinate it, but also know that you will get support in coordination. Once ideas are generated they will be voted on and teams will be developed.

Ideas from the previous meeting named to start of the brainstorming included

  • A rapid-response team to protect vulnerable communities
  • Involvement in the BLM week of action between MLK holiday and the inauguration. ACCE and other community croups are having a December 10 forum.
  • New progressive majorities in Richmond and Oakland
  • Medicare for all
  • Support for Keith Ellison as DNC chair
  • Phone banking of the Democrat in the Louisiana Senate race
  • Strategy committee
  • New member intake team
  • Political education and study group
  • Connections to the local YDS branches
  • First Fridays tabling: We have a place there to table and advance campaigns.

As the brainstorming session develops Norma asks what the goal is. Erik discusses the goal of developing strategy and Jeremy discusses a chicken-and-the-egg problem. Ben says that one goal refers back to Ari's statement last week that this can help us develop campaigns that people can cut their teeth on and sink their teeth into.

Ari suggests the possibility that we have three local campaigns, three national campaigns, and three strategies.

Mike M., a UAW organizer who was not in the initial introductions, asks a question about how this fits with DSA's national strategy.

Karl clarifies that National has some priorities it wants us to buy into, but that socialism starts from where you are, and theirs is a recognition that we will have our own campaigns, too. In response to the national priorities, there is a focus on working with SURJ and a national statement on standing rock and supporting Native rights and ecology.

Susan also brings up the DSA connection to the "system change not climate change" group and the focus on protecting vulnerable groups.

Marc suggests an item on how to involve liberal friends and neighbors who don't do anything and also preparing for military actions by this administration in Iraq and Syria.

Avery discussed the work done by "mad props" and getting involved around proposition education during the election. She noted that this could be part of general education and outreach.

Norma stated a wish to plan something for Inauguration Day, a funeral procession for the death of our country, and also asked what is going on with the general strike idea.

An idea came up about outreach and recruitment and sentinel representatives to other meetings in solidarity (this was in contrast to a phone bank strategy).

Mary Virginia discussed supporting the sanctuary state initiative, holding Democrats accountable to that, and keeping ICE out of California.

Shelly suggested marketing strategies and suggested that we need simple visuals and that the need for these is ignored too often on the left. She suggested a team that does graphic design and that we could work to get posters on BART.

Jake suggested a DJ night to raise money for a group that protects people targeted by Trump.

Susan asked about connecting to the Million Women March being planned for the day after the inauguration. The idea of taking vacations and talking to right wingers, flipping a district, and Brand New Congress were discussed here.

Mike suggested that work needs to be done showing alternative structures, creating and capturing the narrative, and addressing the topic of "what are the stories."

Sam discussed the need to build experience and infrastructure and the idea of calling representatives after each meeting. He expressed concern about catharsis, that just coming to meetings could feel good to people, but it runs the risk of falling short of concrete action.

A woman speaking as affiliated with the BNC (Brand New Congress, name of individual not recorded) spoke about the need to stand up to "Make America Great Again" and addressed the coded meaning of "Make America White Again." She discussed her sense of the need to fight Steve Bannon by getting in front of something, making it a parade, and addressing the fears of white men surrounding population growth, depletion, and impotence concerns. Something came up here about fighting appointments versus supporting them which was difficult for the secretary to track.

Artem discussed a strong sense of the need to connect with the unions.

An idea was floated (Nelson?) of the need to build a popular front or a national front as an aspect of building political power.

A UAW organizer (Mike?) raised the topic that the working class in the Bay Area lives increasingly in the Central Valley. He discussed outreach to the exurbs and the need for a recognition that California is not monolithically blue.

Ami offered the idea of joining in the commitment to register as Muslim if a registry is developed. There was a clarification by another member of which California counties are for and against Trump. The group took a break and returned at 11:10 a.m.

Straw Poll

Erika and Jeremy grouped ideas and asked people to state their interest in each grouping.

The long-term strategy group: a strategy committee had 15 people vote for it and stated initial interest in being involved.

Outreach activities, including involving parents with small kids, outreach to new members, and intake, had 12 people vote for it and express initial interest.

National, state, and local forward thinking of campaigns such as Medicare-for-All, sanctuary state of California, BNC had 10 people vote for it and express initial interest in participating.

Intersectional relationship building: SURJ, rapid-response teams, and defending vulnerable communities had 12 people express initial interest.

Communications surrounding DSA events, essay collections, education: the political education group had 16 people express initial interest.

There was also some discussion of communications as related to social media.

Committees

Following the straw poll there was some discussion: an overlap was noted between outreach and communication. The plan is for these to work in concert and feedback into the larger group.

Shereen noted that one name for each group will need to be the contact person. The structure was offered of a coordinating committee that will serve as the previous system and will support people new to this god of work and keep things from falling through the cracks.

The education committee was discussed. Dan discussed the work of the Jacobin reading group. Jacobin is a Marxist journal started by a number of DSA members. Locally, there is a reading group hosted at the UAW office on campus. A "what is socialism" group might be useful and the idea of the ABCs of Socialism as a starting text and collection was offered as was the idea of coordinating with the San Francisco Jacobin group. There is also an existing DSA affiliated book club and "People Get Ready" and "The S Word," were suggested as possible books.

Dan will be the coordinator of the Education Committee. The following people committed to working on this committee with Dan: Susan C., Nestor, Shannon M., Eileen J., Artem I., and Nico C.

The Long-Term Strategy Committee was discussed. A question came up about the definition of this group: would it mean aiding in other areas? The goal of the group has to do with developing strategy. There is a difference between this and the campaigns. There is also a question of the member database.

The Strategy Committee to be chaired by Erika and Michael M. The following people committed to working on this group with Erika and Michael: Jeremy, Artem, Eileen, Chase K., Susan, and Mary Virginia.

The Outreach Activities group was discussed next. A question of kid work and parent work came up here as did the opportunity to connect to Berkeley High students. Ari is coordinating this group, and Ben is the co-coordinator. The following people committed to work on this group: Coleman L., Jake K., Andy C., Asali E., James, Erika, Michael, and Nye.

Intersectional relationship building: Artem raised a question of whether the jobs of this group need more division into labor connections, activist connections, and protection and defence of vulnerable communities projects. Susan discusses the idea of moving from a "donut hole to a hub" and offered that this group could be those who track the connections to the hub in this model. The following people signed up for this group (secretary missed on noting who the coordinator is). The following people committed to working on this committee: Avery, Artem, Linda M. (who is bilingual), Emily T., Andy C., Nico L., Coleman L., Marc P., Bill K., and Jack C.

The national, state, and local campaigns group was discussed. This group involve phone banking and other strategies. The coordinators for the group are Jeremy and Mary Virginia. The following people committed to being involved with the group: Norma M., Linda M., Asali, Anisha S., Sam H., Christine, Danila, Bill K., Marc P., and Shelly.

The Events Committee was discussed next. Susan mentioned here that for events, the DSA has a contact at the Starry Plough, and it is a viable site for us to use. Norma is the contact for the Events Committee. She is hoping that the funeral and dance events can be planned soon. Committed to being part of the Events Committee are: Coleman, Zenta, Eileen, Ami, Shannon, Jake, Shelly, Christine, Asali, and Chase.

Shelly and Shereen have committed to the role of Communication Committee leads. Also committed to this group are: Zenta, Coleman, Ami, Megan D., Tim H., Asali, and Anisha.

The Coordinating Committee is made of of the leaders and co-leaders of the groups, and their roles are to prevent work from falling through the cracks.

Next Steps

The next meeting is scheduled for the second Saturday in December (location TBD), and each committee will meet independently prior to the December meeting.

The role of the general meeting is now about updating the group as a whole on the work of the committees and for socializing and feeding interested people into the groups. Avery stated that for those interested or in need of them before Thanksgiving vacationing with right-wingers talking points have been drafted, and edits are welcome.

The meeting was then adjourned by Erika.